|You *may* recall Lettice Knollys who was re-named and portrayed in the movie 'Elizabeth' (Cate Blanchett & Joseph Fiennes version) as the red-haired Elizabeth doppelganger who dies after Elizabeth's frustrated boyfriend, Robert Dudley, has her wear one of Elizabeth's dresses. Bad luck for her that an enemy of the Queen had laced the fabric of the dress with fast-acting poison. (Historical accuracy alert: never happened.)|
Here's the real story:
Lettice Knollys was the daughter of Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary Boleyn.
Lettice *may* also have been the granddaughter of Henry VIII.
Mary Boleyn was most certainly doing the old slap'n'tickle with him around the time of Lettice's mother's (Catherine) conception, but Mary Boleyn was married to a man named Henry Carey at the same time.
Due to a distinct lack of availability of inner cheek-swabbing for the purposes of DNA testing at that time, it's anyone's guess as to which was the paternal parent, although Henry VIII wouldn't have been cool with his mistress sleeping with anybody else, not even the mistress's own husband.
Henry VIII definitely provided Mary Boleyn-Carey's husband with perks and properties right around the time both of her children were born; that suggests perhaps the King was rewarding Henry Carey for keeping his mitts off his own wife while the King dallied with her. So it's a pretty good bet that Catherine Carey
was not only Queen Elizabeth's cousin, but was her half-sister, as well. (I know, I know. It officially blows my mind, too.)
Lettice Knollys was born to Catherine Carey in 1543, making her exactly ten years younger than her future rival, Queen Elizabeth I.
Catherine Carey was much favored by Elizabeth once Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558; she was appointed Elizabeth I's Chief Lady of the Bedchamber.
(Note: in Tudor palaces, rooms occupied by the monarch were public, semi-public, private, more private, very private indeed, totally private, and, in the case of a bed chamber, utterly double-secret-probation private.
And that is the level of privacy Catherine Carey Knollys enjoyed with the Queen of England; more a role for a half-sister than a cousin, wouldn't you agree?)
Catherine's daughter, the luscious, lovely, flame-haired (Tudor hair, anyone? LOL!) Lettice came to court at a slightly younger-than-was-usual age.
A high-spirited young lady, Lettice thought very well of herself; she thought less well of her cousin, the Queen, but Lettice was smart enough to keep that information to herself.
For awhile, anyway.
She did her court duties.
In the manner of nice young ladies of nobility at court, she made her marriageable qualities known.
All that yummy, kissin' cousin to the Queen, royal look-alike deliciousness (and didn't she know it!) as a single lady paid off; in time, the nineteen year old Lettice married Robert Devereux, a fellow nobleman with fair holdings and good prospects.
At first, the marriage hummed along; a couple of little Devereuxs showed up in the nursery and the couple seemed happy enough - then Robert Devereux began spending time in Ireland.
A lot of time.
The Earl of Leicester,Robert Dudley (oh, yeah, THAT Robert Dudley - Elizabeth I's favored 'Sweet Robyn') and Lettice Knollys Devereux, wife of the now-Earl of Essex, began canoodling fairly openly.
Little 'Devereuxs' continued to come along, so naturally, one or two of them had a touch of that paternity problem endured by Lettice's own mother; the "is your papa really your papa?" condition.
There are reports from that time naming Dudley as the father of Lettice's son, Robert Devereux.
(Her husband and lover both being named Robert certainly made it easier for Lettice to convincingly shout the name during passionate moments; there was no getting it wrong. Convenient!)
Time marched on; then in 1575 Lettice's husband, Robert, who by then had become the Earl of Essex died unexpectedly in Ireland.
Rumors flew through the court that he'd been poisoned.
|Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, notorious two-timer.|
With her husband conveniently out of the way, and equally conveniently, having left her with a comfortable amount of money, The Widow Devereux a.k.a. "Lettice with Two Roberts" got competitive and upped the ante with her cousin the Queen.
She began to make a game out of going to Court to tweak Elizabeth I's nose over their shared lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
She faked out her own carriage entourage to fool people into thinking that, with security and ladies in waiting all over the place, she was the Queen.
As she was ten years younger than Queen Elizabeth, she made snotty, sneaky remarks about the Queen's age.
Within two years, she went for the win and on the down-low, married Robert Dudley.
The Queen found out months later, and predictably flipped a biscuit.
A real girl-on-girl fight broke out; name-calling and ear-boxing ensued - although it was a one-sided fight as only a complete idiot would smack around the Queen.
Lettice pretty much had to stand there and take Elizabeth's fury-driven, jealous bullshit.
Elizabeth I forgave Robert Dudley pretty quickly.
Not being a girl's girl, though, she carried a stubborn Tudor-style grudge against Lettice for the rest of her life.
When they were both old ladies, and Lettice, through the treasonous actions of one of her sons, went into serious debt, she begged Elizabeth to please, please, pretty-please forgive her.
Elizabeth had none of it; not only did she refuse to even meet with Lettice, she dunned her for the outstanding money with vicious vengeance topped by a big dollop of gloating and a cherry-sized 'fuck you' right on top.
Elizabeth never again laid eyes on Lettice.
The similarities in temperament, intensity, quick wit, cunning, competitive nature, vying for the top seat at all costs are striking when comparing the two women.
- Mary Boleyn, Lettice's gran, and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's mama both had sexual relations over an extended time period with the same man; Lettice and Elizabeth I both had long-term intimate relationships with the same man.
- Anne Boleyn was expert at promoting her family's brand at Court through her impeccable personal appearance and clothing chosen for its ability to catch, and hold, the eye of everyone who beheld its magnificent wearer.
- Elizabeth I inherited her mother's ability to pick a kirtle (dress) and matching sleeves that not only packed a visual punch, but transmitted all kinds of messages to those who beheld its magnificent wearer.
- Not to be left out, Lettice ALSO inherited a love of clothes - and wore them to transmit messages to one woman who beheld their magnificent wearer: Elizabeth I - kinswoman, cousin, (possible niece as well) and romantic competition for the heart of the same man. Lettice flounced and flouted a lush new wardrobe at Court,thoroughly pissing off Queen Elizabeth I, and prompting the Queen to immortalize Lettice by throwing shade at her in a famous quote.
"As one sun lights the sky, we will have one Queen of England!"
(Note: When Elizabeth said, 'we will have one . . .' she was using the royal 'we,' meaning Elizabeth the Queen and Elizabeth the Human Being. Try calling yourself 'we' for awhile the next time you're feeling lonely. It's like always having your own best friend right there in your head!)
Since Elizabeth made it very, very clear she would never marry, her lover, Robert Dudley, did the next best thing - got it on with Lettice, who not only looked like Elizabeth, but also had all those Boleyn inherited traits of brains, looks and being terrific on the dance floor.
Sort of a creepy sister/sister thing.
So, here's a question for you; did Robert Dudley use Lettice as an Elizabeth substitute?
Or was Elizabeth solely a gateway to favors, appointments, properties, honors, titles and a life of leisure while Lettice was the real love of his life?
Weigh in below in the 'Comment' section.
I'd love to know what you think.
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